Sir Nils Olav: The penguin who rose through the ranks

Sir Nils Olav: The penguin who rose through the ranks.

Sir Nils Olav: The penguin who rose through the ranks. Image: Edinburgh Zoo.

In the realm of animal tales, one story stands out: the remarkable journey of Nils Olav, a penguin at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.

While it’s true Norway didn’t knight a penguin, the Norwegian King’s Guard did bestow upon him a series of honorary military titles.

Nils Olav’s story began in the early 1960s at the Edinburgh Zoo, where he lived among his penguin pals.

His life changed when a Norwegian regiment visited the zoo in 1961.

The soldiers took a liking to Nils Olav, sparking a special connection.

In 1972, during another visit, the Norwegian King’s Guard named Nils Olav as their official mascot.

This marked the start of his unique military career.

Over the years, Nils Olav rose through the ranks within the Norwegian King’s Guard.

He received promotions during their visits, with ceremonies attended by royal family members and dignitaries. In 1987, he became a Corporal, and in 2001, a Sergeant.

A highlight came in 2008 when the Norwegian King’s Guard knighted Nils Olav in a grand ceremony witnessed by thousands.

He became Sir Nils Olav, Knight of the Norwegian King’s Guard, solidifying his status as a symbol of friendship between Norway and Scotland.

Nils Olav’s knighthood was just the beginning and he has continued to receive honours.

In 2023, Nila was promoted to Major General in the presence of 120 guardsmen.

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Written by

Anna Ellis

Originally from Derbyshire, UK, Anna has lived in the middle of nowhere on the Costa Blanca for 20 years.